A Friendly Solitude
Published: 15th June 2014 06:00 AM |
All over Europe, the relics of battles past are visible as ruined fortifications and monuments. Nowhere else in the world can one see the greatest homage to the bloody art of war as in the Stryrian Armoury in Graz, Austria. It houses 32,000 authentic pieces of military equipment which have been stored since the 17th century—the most authentic collection of historical weaponry in the world. For 200 years, the armoury served as Styria’s central arms depot. At its peak in 1699, the Styrian Armoury inventory had 185,000 pieces of arms and armour.
Styria is located southeast of Austria, bordering Slovenia. Between the 15th century and 18th century, when Europe was at war with the Ottoman Empire, most European cities were heavily armed to resist continuing attacks from the Ottomans. For them, Graz, located at the foot of the Alps, with only foothills to the East, was the inviting gateway to central Europe. Thus, it became the front line defence against the invaders to protect the southern flank of Vienna and the Danube valley. Besides the Ottomans, Hungarian rebels threatened the duchy. Styria constantly needed weapons and the Tyrolean architect Antonio Solar was commissioned in 1642 to build the armoury, which he completed the five storey three years later. Only one floor housed the administrative section while the rest of the floors were used to store swords, shields, guns, armour for both horses and men and primitive rocket launchers for over a century. When the Austrian army became centralised, empress Maria Theresia gave the order to dismantle it. But the citizens of Styria petitioned her and it was turned into a museum.
During World War II, the exhibits were taken away and stored in three castles, and were later brought back at the end of the war undamaged.
The armoury is situated in Graz’s Inner City, close to Hauptplatz at Herrengasse Nr. 16. It is open six days a week and is closed on Tuesdays.